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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Mobilizing Against Trump’s Attack Against the Environment

The following post by Keith Gaby is cross-posted from the Environmental Defense Fund:

The Trump administration’s stumbling start – daily controversies, “alternative facts,” historically low approval ratings and much more – doesn’t mean the president and his allies can’t carry out plans to undermine decades of environmental progress.

But the fact that their views are unpopular with the American people, and that there’s been a massive mobilization to fight back, does mean we have a good chance to protect much of what we’ve gained.

The attacks from the White House and Congress have been coming fast since Trump took office.

  • The House has voted to end a rule that limits methane pollution from oil and gas leaks and saves taxpayers millions of dollars every year – a hat trick by lawmakers that’s fiscally irresponsible, damages our health and accelerates climate warming.
  • The House also passed bills to hobble agencies from developing health and safety rules on clean air, worker protections and food safety.
  • As many as 118 House members co-sponsored a bill to amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit federal agencies from limiting carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – all dangerous climate pollutants. The bill would declare them not to be pollutants under the law, despite decades of scientific evidence showing they contribute to climate change.
  • Several new House bills would weaken the Clean Water Act and eliminate the latest updates to the Good Neighbor Rule, which limits air pollution that floats from one state into another. How the state on the receiving end is supposed to deal with pollution coming from outside its borders is unclear.

This week brought a new rash of assaults, some shockingly radical. One bill consists of a single sentence, “The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on Dec. 31, 2018.”

The agency of 15,000 employees who have saved the lives of countless Americans and transformed our nation into a dramatically cleaner and healthier place would simply go away.

Odds are that Congress won’t go that far, but the fact that three members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sponsored it shows just how extreme some elected officials have become.

It is true that President Trump said during the campaign he wanted to dismantle the EPA as we know it, explaining he didn’t like limits on big business. In other words, we were warned and given an explanation. But, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, we are nevertheless persisting in fighting back.

This week, Environmental Defense Fund filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act asking for documents on the Trump transition team’s advice for overhauling the EPA, including a reported “Action Plan” that called from drastic changes to the agency. It’s critical that these plans be made transparent and available for public scrutiny.

Our advocacy partner, EDF Action, has also spent more than $1 million fighting against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, the anti-EPA crusader nominated to run the agency – and on ads running across the country against overturning the methane waste rule and other health and safety protections.

We must hold members of Congress who voted for these bills accountable.

The battle, in other words, is fully engaged on both sides.

With all its flaws, our democracy still responds to public opinion. And we continue to focus on making Congress aware that Americans will not be happy if our air, water and future become less healthy.

Drum: Behind Harward’s Decline of Trump’s NSA Offer

President Trump settled on a widely-respected national security expert to replace Michael Flynn as  National Security Advisor, retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward. Unfortunately, Harward turned Trump’s offer down. Kevin Drum’s Mother Jones post “K.T. McFarland Is Too Much to Swallow, So Robert Harward Turns Down NSA Position” cuts through the fog and explains why Trump bungled it:

After Michael Flynn resigned/was fired as National Security Advisor, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the top prospect to replace him turned out to be Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward. He’s well respected by both Democrats and Republicans and would have brought some needed experience and sobriety to the White House.

Unfortunately, Harward turned down the job. It all hinged on whether he would be allowed to choose his own team. Here is CBS News:

“Two sources close to the situation confirm Harward demanded his own team, and the White House resisted. Specifically, Mr. Trump told Deputy National Security Adviser K. T. McFarland that she could retain her post, even after the ouster of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Harward refused to keep McFarland as his deputy, and after a day of negotiations over this and other staffing matters, Harward declined to serve as Flynn’s replacement.”

McFarland hasn’t held a government position for over 30 years, but she has appeared regularly on Fox News as a standard-issue hardline pundit for the past decade. In Trump’s eyes, this qualifies her to be the #2 person on the National Security Council. Apparently Harward didn’t agree…

It sounds a lot like Harward didn’t want to put up with lightweight ideologues meddling about the all-important business of the National Security Council. As Drum puts it,

Basically, Harward is a serious guy who wanted the National Security Council to be staffed with national security experts, not Fox News hacks and political operators. That was a bridge too far for the Trump team, so Harward pulled out…That’s all bad enough, but it raises another question: now that this is all public knowledge, will anyone serious be willing to take this position? How could they?

That’s a very tough question, and it’s a shame that America has been denied the leadership of a top expert with Harward’s impressive credentials — yet another indication that the President is getting some very bad advice, and worse, taking it.

Dems Call for Follow-Up Action on ‘Flynnghazi’

Following Michael Flynn’s resignation as the Trump Administration’s National Security Advisor, Democratic leaders are calling for further congressional action to address unanswered questions surrounding Flynn’s contact with Russian leaders.

In his CQPolitics Roll Call post “Democrats Want Probe of ‘Unfit’ Flynn’s Russia Ties,” John T. Bennett reports that “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an “bipartisan, independent, outside commission” to investigate President Donald Trump’s and his administration’s connections with Russia.”

Bennett notes also that the top-ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Adam Schiff (CA) said Flynn “was always a poor choice” for national security adviser, suggesting the former general lacked the needed skills as a “consensus builder” and did not “possess sobriety and steady judgment.” Further, notes Bennett

“It is certainly no role for someone who plays fast and loose with the truth,” Schiff said. “But Flynn’s departure does not end questions over his contacts with the Russians. … These alleged contacts and any others the Trump campaign may have had with the Kremlin are the subject of the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing investigation.”

Schiff also questioned whether Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials, which could have violated a law pertaining to private citizens negotiating on behalf of the federal government, came at the behest of Trump.

Bennett adds that other Democrats are calling for more investigation and information:

Rep. John Conyers, Jr., D-Mich., ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released a joint statement urging Justice Department and FBI officials to come to Capitol Hill this week with answers about Flynn’s Russia ties.

“The reality is Gen. Flynn was unfit to be the National Security Advisor, and should have been dismissed three weeks ago,” Cummings and Conyers said. “Now, we in Congress need to know who authorized his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks. We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security.”

The two lawmakers said they will ask FBI and Justice officials to brief members this week, before both chambers adjourn for a week-long Presidents’ Day recess.

And Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., House Foreign Affairs ranking member said in a statement that “far too many questions remain unanswered about this Administration’s ties to Russia.” He called for a “thorough, bipartisan investigation to get the complete picture of Russia’s interference in our election.”

House leaders are thus far opposing any further investigations. As Tara Golshan reports at Vox, “House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Jason Chaffetz said his committee will not investigate Flynn’s contact with the Russian government, or the extent of his communications with White House officials”:

“It’s taking care of itself,” Chaffetz told reporters Tuesday, according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney, adding that further investigation would be up to the House Intelligence Committee.

But Republican House Intelligence Committee Chair David Nunes said Tuesday that his committee won’t look into conversations between Trump and Flynn, according to CNN’s Manu Raju. Nunes cited executive privilege — a privilege typically claimed by the president for withholding information in the public interest.

If Republican leaders continue to stonewall against further investigaton, it’s only a matter of time before reporters who believe in doing their job force Trump to explain, on camera, in his own words, what Flynn did wrong. This is too big a story to just whither away without the most important questions being answered. The politics of distraction aren’t going to help much with this one.

All of which recalls Flynn’s speech to the GOP convention, in which he parroted the “Lock her up!” chant targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, citing “her careless use of a private email server.” He may not be the last member of Trump’s inner circle to ‘resign’ under a cloud of concern about compromised national security, but he is the first one.

Lux: Dems, Don’t Get Suckered by ‘Base vs. Working-Class’ False Choice

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of  The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted fromHuffPo:

When a political party loses a big election (especially an election they clearly should have won), and finds itself out of power at every level of government, a debate needs to be had about the future of that party. The Democratic party is having such a debate, but when the frame of the debate is as twisted up as it currently is, we aren’t going to make much headway in terms of finding the best answers.

Debate framing, bad definitions, and false questions are popular in Washington, DC. For years, I have been bemused by the inside the beltway definition of “centrism”, which consists mostly of being pro-trade deals that benefit big business, pro-cutting Social Security and Medicare, and in favor of helping the big banks on Wall Street soften the few regulations that hold them back. None of these positions have any popularity with the actual centrist swing voters that helped decide this election- or any in the last couple of decades- but in DC circles, this kind of “centrism” has for years been all the rage.

The same pundits who define centrism in this manner are now trying to frame the debate over the future of the Democratic party as a debate over whether the party should become more progressive or whether we should reach out to swing voters. The problem with this frame is that the message and issues that have the best chance of appealing to the working class swing voters Democrats lost in 2016 (and 3 of the last 4 elections) is the same one that fires up the Democratic base of young people, people of color, and unmarried women: the economic populism of Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, and Keith Ellison. Those kinds of progressive populist politicians, the Democratic base, and swing working class voters all believe that the system is rigged in favor of the wealthy and big business special interests; they all believe Social Security should be expanded and Medicare should be preserved and strengthened; they all believe in trade and other economic policies that will bring back good paying manufacturing jobs to this country; they all believe in spending a lot more money on infrastructure, creating jobs building and rebuilding roads, bridges, schools, airports, electric grids, as well as adding new jobs in solar and wind energy; they all believe in getting tougher on Wall St, including prosecuting those in the financial industry who commit crimes and breaking up the Too Big To Fail banks; they all believe in taxing the wealthiest Americans and reining in CEO power; they all believe in a higher minimum wage and more rights for workers.

And you know what else (speaking of a false debate): progressive leaders and our fired up Democratic base are all pro-business, too. According to the Washington Post and other traditional media sources, the Democrats are at war with progressives on one side and the “business-friendly” wing of the party on the other. But here’s the deal: progressives strongly support all kinds of business-friendly policies. We want for small business and start-ups to be able to compete with corporate conglomerates trying to corner the market, and so we favor vigorous enforcement of anti-trust law; we encourage people to sign up for community based banks and credit unions; we have pushed hard to develop solar, wind, and other energy sources that do not contribute to climate change; we worked with retailers to fight Wall St on swipe fees, and are working with them now on attacking this crazy Border Adjustment Tax idea in the Ryan budget because it is essentially a sales tax that mostly working class and poor people will pay; we are fighting to defend hospitals, especially rural hospitals, from the Medicaid cuts Republicans are trying to do in repealing the ACA; we are working alongside the taxi and hotel industries to keep Uber and Airbnb from destroying millions of jobs, creating major problems in housing markets in big cities, and violating people’s ADA and civil rights; and we are standing with family farmers and ranchers as they fight the big food and pipeline companies that are trying to take away their ability to make a good living.

Just because progressives oppose big business from getting sweetheart deals and tax loopholes from government, just because we want to stop overheating the planet with climate change, just because we want highly profitable businesses to pay their fair share of taxes and pay their workers decent wages and benefits, just because we want to safeguard the main street economy from irresponsible speculation by Too Big To Fail banks: none of that makes progressive Democrats “anti-business”. Quite the opposite: we are for promoting businesses that are good members of their community, and want to do everything in our power to help them.

Here’s another example of a false debate: having to choose betweenwhite working class voters in rural and small town America and the urban Democratic base. For starters, note the issues I mentioned in the 3rd paragraph above: as I said, the base and rural voters have very similar views on most of those issues. While there are enough differences and disagreements on some issues to keep Democrats from getting a majority of rural votes anytime soon, there’s a big difference between losing them 62-38 as the ultimate urbanite Barack Obama did in 2012 and losing them 71-29 as Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Those Democrats who are arguing we should walk away from rural voters and rural districts because we haven’t done well there the last couple of cycles are essentially dooming us to permanent minority status given how rural voters and states are favored disproportionately in terms of their relative power in the House, Senate, and electoral college. And we have plenty of issues we can make a stand on in rural America, including saving rural hospitals from an ACA repeal, saving rural schools from Betsy DeVos’ obsession with urban charter and voucher schools, stopping the Border Adjustment Tax which will be a heavier tax on people in rural areas than in urban areas, and making sure roads and highways and schools are built in rural America as well as urban America.

It is worth noting, by the way, that the stereotype of rural areas being all white and conservative is wrong: there are a ton of Democratic base voters and people of color living in rural America. Bernie Sanders did very well in rural America, winning most of the small states outside of the South. Native American reservations are 100% in rural areas. And throughout the Midwest and Southwest are rapidly growing numbers of Latinos in rural America. One example: my home state of Nebraska is now over 10% Latino, with small towns like Scottsbluff, Grand Island, and Lexington being over 25-50% Latino. The percentage of these rural Latinos and Native Americans who did not vote in 2016 was astronomical compared to most other demographic groups, as the Democratic party and Clinton campaign did not spend much money targeting them. I am a big advocate of Democrats doing more to reach out to working class rural swing voters on a populist economic platform, but if all we did was focus on turning out our base voters in rural America, we could cut the margins we lost there dramatically.

Democrats need to stop listening to the beltway pundits telling them they need to make false choices. We don’t have to decide between base voters and working class voters: in fact, most of our base are working class people who have been as hard hit by this economy’s heavy tilt to the top 1% as anyone, and populist economic messages work for both base and swing voters. We don’t have to choose between being populists and being pro-business: progressive populism is very much aligned with the small businesses, start-ups, green energy companies, and good neighbor companies that we ought to be helping. We don’t have to choose between rural and urban America, as progressive policies on energy, health care, Wall St, farming, anti-trust, education, the minimum wage, and health care are major assets in both big cities and small towns. Democrats need to stop playing either/or politics and stop having debates between ourselves that don’t make any sense.

Are Rural Congressional Districts Unwinnable for Dems?

Paul Kane’s PowerPost article “Should House Democrats write off rural congressional districts?” opens up an interesting, but difficult topic for Democrats looking towards 2018 and beyond. Kane takes a look at Rep. Sean Maloney’s data-driven presentation to the Democratic policy retreat in Baltimore yesterday, and observes:

…There are House districts that Democrats have competed in, or even represented for a long time, that have moved so sharply away from Democrats that they need to reassess whether to compete there ever again. Yet there is also an emerging set of districts that have long been held by Republicans that are now bending toward Democrats faster than even the most optimistic strategists envisioned.

The ones now on the table? Longtime Republican districts that are becoming more demographically diverse. Off the table may be rural districts with little diversity, the very places where President Trump did well in 2016.

Rep. Maloney’s argument will not be popular with Democrats who believe in the 435 district, 50-state strategy, which holds that Dems should campaign everywhere. Kane explains Maloney’s analysis:

A lawyer, Maloney is a bit obsessed with data, and he said he believes there are 350 unique characteristics that can be applied to every House race that will indicate which direction it will go.

Some findings are surprising. “Did the unemployment rate matter or not?” he said. “Turns out it doesn’t matter much at all.”

Maloney also wants to abandon the longtime party metric used by operatives known as the Democratic Performance Index, a complicated formula based on presidential and congressional candidate performance in specific House districts. Instead, he said, the three biggest predictors of the partisan bent of a House district are the percentage of it that is rural, how much of its population has received college degrees and how diverse it is.

“We need to get out of the past. Our tools need to get out of the past,” Maloney said.

This means that Democrats made mistakes in places such as Iowa’s 1st Congressional District and Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, seats that in the summer of 2016 Democrats expected to win. But both are very rural and are not diverse. Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) won reelection by nearly eight percentage points in a district that swung from twice voting for Barack Obama for president to supporting Donald Trump, and Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) won his first election despite a long career of controversial statements as a radio talk-show host.

Demographic profiles of congressional districts can change very fast, and it’s important that the party address the dynamics in its campaign resource allocations. But Maloney’s analysis is not just about which districts to write off; he is equally-vigilant about working those districts that have demographics trending in a more favorable direction for Democrats:

Two highlights for Democrats came in highly educated suburban districts: in northern New Jersey, where Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D) ousted a seven-term Republican; and outside Orlando, where Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D) knocked off a 23-year incumbent.

Some of this won’t be news to [Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairman, Rep. Ben Ray] Luján and senior DCCC staff, because they have already launched a “Majority Project” in these emerging districts. In private they admit they realized too late that Trump was speeding up the shift of well-educated suburbanites toward the Democrats, leaving too many Republicans facing inferior opponents last year in potentially competitive races.

Kane points out that Democrats lost some suburban districts they should have won, based on demographic changes, because of exceptionally-strong Republican candidates and/or weak Democratic candidates. As Maloney observes, “Candidates still matter.”

Great candidates remain the wild card that can deliver victory where all logic and statistics say otherwise.  Few would disagree that one of the most glaring weaknesses of the Democratic Party is the failure to identify, recruit, train and fund enough promising candidates to be competitive in suburban, let alone rural, districts. If Dems want to be more competitive everywhere, they must invest more thought, money and action in meeting this challenge. A study that takes an in-depth look at Democratic elected officials who have beat the odds to win in districts they should have lost might yield some useful insights.

What Democats Won in Fighting Against the DeVos Nomination

Many Democrats are discouraged today, owing to Vice President Pence’s tie-breaking vote, which yesterday secured the confirmation of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education. It was a tough defeat to accept, with Dems just one vote away from preventing Devos from running the Department of Education.

Making the defeat harder to accept was the fact that DeVos has to be one of the least-qualified of Trump’s cabinet nominees, both in terms of experience and values. This was one of Trump’s most spiteful, ‘in-your-face-Democrats’ nominations. She may be the least qualified Secretary of Education in history. But Democrats did gain something significant from their near-victory. Jim Newell explains it well at slate.com:

Shortly before DeVos’ vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office sent out a list of stats measuring the effort to block DeVos. The number of hours for which Democrats had held the floor consistently to protest (“29 and counting”), the number of contacts to Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey’s office in opposition to DeVos (“Over 100,000”), the total number of calls to Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s office, out of 3,000, that were supportive of DeVos (12), and so on.

But did Schumer ever think there was really a chance to bag that 51st no vote—and to what end did all this activism serve?

“I thought we had some chance,” Schumer said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “We realized even if we didn’t, to make the point that Secretary DeVos is so anti–public education was an important point to make. … And we have an obligation, obviously, to try and overturn some of these nominees who are among the worst Cabinet I have ever seen nominated.”

Some people who took time out of their day to call, write, or protest, or who pledged money to a comical effort to buy senators’ votes, will be disappointed that their efforts didn’t make any difference in the final tally. Schumer’s argument is that the great drama surrounding DeVos’ nomination, and the spectacle of the vice president having to cast the tie-breaking vote on a Cabinet appointee for the first time in history, effectively serves to put DeVos on notice.

“Once we set the table—that Secretary-nominee DeVos is against public education—it will serve to put a magnifying glass on her when she makes a decision,” he said. “So that’s important, too.”

Newell predicts that the rest of Trump’s nominees will all be confirmed. The Republicans have a disciplined, if small, majority. They only had two of their Senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska join with Democrats on the DeVos vote. Nonetheless, adds Newell,

But there’s a reason to fight President Trump’s nominations even if they can’t be derailed. More dissent means more critical stories in the press, means sharper-elbowed hearings, means defensive guarantees made to mollify wobbly senators, means a brighter spotlight on the secretaries once they’re in office. The resistance to Trump is in part about boxing in the people charged with enacting his will. The less latitude the Cabinet can enjoy, the weaker the Trump administration is.

Eventually, most of Trump’s cabinet choices are going to take unpopular actions, which will anger voters, including some Trump supporters  That’s when Democrats who have strongly opposed DeVos and others will be able to point to their records and make a case to defeat Republicans who rubber-stamped what Schumer called, with good reason “the worst cabinet I have ever seen.”

Democrats put up a good, strong fight against the nomination of an extraordinarilly unqualified ideologue to head the government’s most influential educational institution. Four years from now, if not two, many swing voters are going to be looking to see which party truly stands for educational opportunities for their kids, and the record — including the DeVos vote — will speak quite clearly for the Democrats.

Greenberg: Parties of the Left, Wake Up! In the United States and the United Kingdom, voters told Democrats and Labour how they need to change. Will they?

The following article by Stanley Greenberg is cross-posted from a Democracy Corps e-blast and has appeared in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas:

Center-left parties in America and Europe are struggling. They are struggling for three reasons: First, they have failed to offer a credible response to the period of prolonged income stagnation and growing inequality; second, they have become part of the political-business-elite accommodation that the public views as corrupt; and third, they have been indifferent to the disruptive effects of globalization and loath to show immigration needs to be controlled.

Donald Trump’s improbable and tragic victory has now shown painfully and unnecessarily how important are those factors in the United States too. It would have been better had we been spared this American experiment, but we can at least learn from it, and quickly.

Hillary Clinton lost steam in the closing weeks and days because her campaign chose not to contest the economy or the undue influence of the few over government. They chose not to attack Trump for cheating workers and small contractors and for using cheap Chinese steel and undocumented immigrants. They chose not to contrast Trump’s massive trickle down tax cuts for billionaires with Clinton’s tax cuts for the middle class. They decided not to tantalize voters with her promise of bold reforms to make the economy work for all, not just those at the top.

WikiLeaks published some of my emails to the campaign’s chair, and he invited me after the FBI’s late interjection to share my findings on the power of closing on the economy, but Clinton’s top manager and advisors pushed back, saying, “We can’t win the economic argument.”

Instead, she appealed for unity over division, hope over hate, and experience over bad temperament. She promised an era of unrivaled opportunity for all groups, and to build on Barack Obama’s economic progress. After all, “America is already great.”

The campaign came to that assessment despite Clinton achieving her biggest margins in the race after uniting with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and embracing their case for economic change; after her convention speech, when she called for a fair, inclusive economy; and after the debates, wherein she articulated her bold economic plans, prosecuted Trump mercilessly for his “Trumped-up trickle down” tax cuts for billionaires and repeatedly promised to raise taxes on the rich, because they’ve reaped all the gains and “that’s where the money is.”

Secretary Clinton invited me to weigh in on her economic speeches and message, and the result was most evident in the debates. After they aired, just weeks before Election Day, Clinton achieved parity with Trump on who could best handle the economy, the number one issue to be decided on Election Day, according to exit polling, and the top concern for 60 percent of her own voters. Clinton voters, even more than Trump’s, were angry at corporate abuse. Yet Clinton went silent on the economy, corporate irresponsibility, and undue special interest influence.

As a result of that choice, she lost the struggling white working class, particularly the women who broke for Trump at the end. She also lost ground with the progressive base voters, who disappointed on turnout and vote share. Millennials, Sanders voters, single women, and minorities were struggling financially, and they were the voters most determined to disrupt the nexus of Wall Street and Washington. Secretary Clinton was acutely conscious of the pain so many families were experiencing, but, she told me, she couldn’t be seen to be critical of President Obama’s economy in any way.

I admire what Obama achieved as President, but he, like so many other center-left leaders who led their countries’ passage through the financial crisis, have been nearly silent on the new economic reality of long-term income stagnation, jobs that don’t pay enough to live on, and the richest 1 percent taking virtually all the new income and wealth gains. Few have championed plausible plans bold enough to produce a more broadly shared prosperity.

Obama faced an economy in free fall and acted boldly to keep it from heading into a depression. The economic project of his whole presidency, accordingly, was getting the economy to a full recovery. That started with restoring the financial health of the big banks. The long-term stagnation of wages and inequality was not part of that project. Obama also declined to be an educative President who spent time and capital explaining his initiatives, even the economic policies and the Affordable Care Act that had the middle class as the main beneficiary. Obama believed that the progress and positive changes on the ground—the “facts”—would ultimately become evident to the people. He would thereby be vindicated and his opponents rejected.

As a result, his economic recovery effort came to be seen as “bailouts.” One year after the passage of the economic recovery program, most thought the big banks, not the middle class, were the main beneficiaries of Obama and the Democrats’ heroic efforts. TARP remains a searing event in the consciousness of a citizenry who think the elites, joined by Obama, rushed to bail out the irresponsible and protect their executive bonuses while doing nothing about home foreclosures or the lost wealth that hit the Hispanic and black communities particularly hard.

Yet this was the President’s message from the beginning, pursued also in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014 and the general election of 2016: The country is making progress and the economy is recovering and you should punish the Republicans who want us to fail. In his final weekend speech before the 2010 election, he scorned the Republicans who had driven our economy “into a ditch” and were now doing everything possible to impede us, and argued that the car was “pointing in the right direction.”

The President used this refrain again in 2014, a second off-year shellacking, and in his closing weekend appeal in 2016: “We’ve seen America turn recession into recovery” and have created 15.5 million new jobs. Pointedly, he said, “Incomes are rising. Poverty is falling.” So get out and vote because “we now have the chance to elect a forty-fifth president who will build on our progress.”

Obama closed his presidency uncharacteristically, campaigning publicly and lobbying Congress intently to win passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim countries, encompassing 40 percent of the global economy. He argued that it would grow the U.S. economy, raise labor and environmental standards, and block China’s strategic advance. He won the acclaim of editorial writers, but TPP lost public support as opponents argued that it was actually shaped in secret by hundreds of industry lobbyists and would allow foreign corporations to sue our government and overturn consumer protections. Finally, they argued that it would cost U.S. jobs and push down wages; that was the final straw for many working-class voters who opposed the agreement intensely. This was at the heart of Trump’s campaign in the Rust Belt states and subsequent attacks on Clinton.

Voters already viewed Obama’s economic commentary incredulously and his approval ratings fell dramatically in 2010 in Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and in 2014 in Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. On the eve of the 2016 general election, Obama’s approval hovered near 40 percent in many of these states.

The discontent was also evident very early on within the progressive base. In both the 2010 and 2014 midterm election years, 40 percent of the new American majority of minorities, unmarried women, and millennial voters disapproved of how the President was handling his job, and many chose not to vote. These were the voters most burdened by new lower-paying jobs, foreclosures, lost house value, and student debt.

As a result, Obama struggled with working-class voters and millennials in his own re-election. In 2012, few commentators and strategists commented on Obama’s millennial vote, which had dropped from 69 to 60 percent, while Romney carried white millennials by seven points. Perhaps millennials were the canary in the coal mine.

And while the Obama Administration was scrupulous in avoiding personal scandal and self-dealing, voters quickly concluded our government favored Wall Street over Main Street, with the way smoothed, they assumed, by lobbyists and big donors. Voters grew ever more skeptical about the massive growth of campaign spending, lobbying, SuperPACs, and dark, secret contributions during Obama’s period in office. Yet the Democratic Administration never prioritized reforming the role of money in politics. Indeed, Obama raised billions outside the system of public financing.

Bernie Sanders, by contrast, declared that he prioritized getting money out of politics over any other policy, since breaking that corrupt bond would liberate government and allow it to work for the middle and working classes. He attacked Hillary Clinton’s SuperPAC and Wall Street contributions and said, “You’re not going to have a government that represents all of us, so long as you have candidates like Secretary Clinton being dependent on big money interests.” Senator Sanders won 72 percent of the millennial vote in the primary.

Many middle Americans believed they were seeing the real Obama when he told his big donors that white workers “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations” in tough economic times; or the real Mitt Romney when he described the 47 percent who “are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it”; or the real Hillary Clinton when she described half of Trump’s voters as belonging in “the basket of deplorables.” Together, they offer a powerful imagery of our elected leaders from both parties hanging out and catering to the economic and cultural elites, while analyzing and patronizing America’s working people.

Those elites and the great majority of Americans with a four-year college degree are comfortable with globalization, growing international trade, and immigration. They do not fully understand that most working people of all races believe government and elected leaders have an obligation to control immigration. Six-in-ten voters believe immigrants strengthen our country, but they also think borders should be real and citizens should matter more than non-citizens. They worry somewhat about competition for jobs, but even more about access to schools, housing, and health care, all desperately short of resources.

President Obama and Democrats gained majority support in the country for comprehensive immigration reform because their plan involved increased enforcement on the border and in workplaces along with giving the law-abiding, taxpaying undocumented a path to citizenship after paying a fine and learning English. This reform allowed the Administration to manage immigration and build a framework for increasing entry numbers in the future, but they also showed that they were serious about border control and citizenship. President Obama did not allow undocumented immigrants to gain subsidies under Obamacare, and he deported more undocumented immigrants than any other President. He took a lot of heat from activists, but the Democratic Party was probably the only center-left party in the advanced world trusted to address immigration, and that is probably still true today.

During the campaign, Hillary Clinton differed with that approach. She promised to end deportations for all but violent criminals and terrorists and declared, “I’m introducing comprehensive immigration reform within the first 100 days with the path to citizenship.” Her focus was not on managing immigration, but on enforcing immigration laws “humanely” and respecting the rights of immigrants. She paid a price for that, I believe. The biggest hope of the independents and Democrats who voted for Trump was that “he will get immigration under control and deport those here illegally.”

Voters made clear they want an economy, society, and government that works for them. Obama left office with a rising approval rating in the same range as Ronald Reagan, with an economy nearing full employment, and real wages climbing up. Still, half of voters in the last election said the economy was the top priority in their voting choice. These voters were sending a very clear message: They want more than just a recovery. Trump mercilessly exploited that; he won because he offered change and American jobs, vowed to take on disloyal American companies and their corrupt deals with the Washington elite on immigration and trade; Clinton, in the end, engaged on none of them.

Before America gave us Donald Trump, Great Britain, for many of the same reasons, gave us the Conservative Party’s surprise victory in 2015 and, of course, Brexit.

But Hillary Clinton can at least be satisfied with the fact that she won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, a 2.1-point margin over Trump. The British Labour Party, on the other hand, is struggling today to reach 30 percent of the vote, and the Conservatives hold a double-digit lead.

I myself once worked as a pollster and strategic advisor to Tony Blair when he and Gordon Brown helped create New Labour. They were tough on crime and on its causes and wanted to reward hard work; they showed independence from trade unions so they could, instead, govern for all. Labour attacked Conservative boom-and-bust economic incompetence. They promised limited spending and no rise in income taxes so that voters could trust them to invest, renew, and reform the public services, particularly the National Health Service and schools. They were reelected under the banner, “Schools and Hospitals First!” They introduced a minimum wage and EU work guarantees and aggressively used tax credits to make sure most families saw incomes rise and poverty fall throughout the government’s first decade in power. Labour won the working class and middle class alike, including landslide majorities in two general elections and a respectable majority in the third.

But Blair’s New Labour project did not have much to offer working-class voters. Consequently, the election of 1997 saw a 6.3 point drop in turnout, reaching historic lows, while 2001 saw a further drop of 12 points, the lowest since 1918. The turnout crash was greatest in older industrial Labour seats, among unskilled manual workers and younger blue-collar workers.

I tried to focus the prime minister and Labour party’s attention on that disengagement, but Blair was much more interested in Labour winning comparable levels of support among all classes, and he resisted talking about “hardworking families,” a two-tier Britain, or attacking the Tories for only caring about the few. His New Labour project was more about community, unity, and One Nation, ideas that seemed disconnected from the emerging economic challenges in Britain.

Blair was right to weaken the ability of trade union leaders to dictate the party’s policies and leaders and thus, make Labour electable again, but he also moved toward a new level of accommodation with business and the City, the most dynamic part of the economy. That accommodation, however, also included visible association with very rich donors who helped fund the party and campaigns. And when the expenses scandal rocked the reputation of many MPs, Labour politicians struggled, more than ever, not to look like they were just in it for the money.

But at least, at that time, Blair’s government was associated with stable growth and a broadly shared prosperity. That was not the case when Gordon Brown lost his election in 2010. Incomes had stagnated for the four years before the financial crash. Labour policies were not producing a rising prosperity for those in the middle, yet the party continued to argue for its economic competence and successes.

At the same time, Labour barely spoke above a whisper about immigration, even though immigration from the Commonwealth and expanding EU rose dramatically under Blair and Brown’s watch. The Labour government scarcely acknowledged that asylum seekers and immigrants affected the availability of council housing and increased pressure on the schools and NHS. Blair was not willing to press his party for reform, and Brown viewed these working-class frustrations as racist, most notoriously when a TV microphone that he thought had been switched off caught him calling Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy “just a sort of bigoted woman” after she had expressed concerns to him about Eastern European immigration at a campaign event.

Indeed, it could be said that the biggest doubt about the Labour government when it lost power was its failure to get immigration under control. Ed Miliband as Labour’s new leader resisted speaking about the issue or advocating for greater control until the general election neared.

With Labour’s credibility shredded on spending and debt, the party barely challenged the economic policies of the Conservative-led coalition government under David Cameron. It claimed that the Tories were cutting spending “too far, too fast,” but did not challenge deficit reduction as the first task of economic policy. And it did not make the case for long-term investment, growth, and shared prosperity.

Labour’s manifesto for the 2015 general election promised that every policy would be paid for, that the party would “cut the deficit every year,” accelerate the increase of the minimum wage, end zero-hour contracts, guarantee apprenticeships for all those coming out of high school, reduce university fees, freeze energy bills, raise the top tax rate from 45 to 50 percent, but not VAT or income tax, and launch an “all-out assault” on tax avoidance. It felt like fingers in a dike rather than an economic offer to produce rising incomes again.

Over the last two decades, Labour lost votes to abstention, to the Tories, and to the anti-Europe and anti-immigration UK Independence Party.

Ed Miliband reached his highest level of support when he challenged Rupert Murdoch and the tabloids that had illegally hacked phones to produce sensational stories. It seemed then that he was willing to break with the elite “establishment” and call out the cozy arrangement of business and government. He also improved his support and raised Labour’s poll numbers when he committed to freeze energy bills, a policy dismissed derisively by the big utility companies. But those gains were episodic and insufficient for the working class, and Labour lost badly in the general election; it later lost many Labour constituencies to Brexit.

Well, the center-left parties now all across Europe are struggling and losing ground to anti-establishment and anti-immigrant parties. The U.K. Labour Party is even more marginalized under its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who questions whether Britain is obligated to respond militarily to a Russian attack on a NATO member and speculates publicly about a nationwide pay cap to address inequality. The party is deeply fractured on immigration and on the free movement of labor from the EU.

In Austria, the anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer won 46 percent of the vote in the election for president.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned after the “No” campaign won almost 60 percent of the vote in the referendum of constitutional reforms that Renzi was pushing. Although this defeat could be explained in a number of ways, Italy is a country where disposable income declined since Renzi formed his Democratic Party government and where 60 percent of the public believes immigration and diversity are a threat to the country—one of the highest levels in Europe.

Donald Trump’s win has given heart to the anti-establishment and anti-immigration parties everywhere, but it also taught us a lot. To start, center-left parties must:

  1. Put working-class economics front and center.
  2. See the country’s challenges through the lives of working people and be skeptical of conventional wisdom emanating from the elites in metropolitan center.
  3. Acknowledge frontally that immigration needs to be better controlled and people are right to want a framework that includes real borders, new migrants contributing through taxes and learning the country’s language, and a framework where citizens receive greater benefits than non-citizens.
  4. Take on the elite, big money special interests that play too big a role and are the prime drivers of economic and social inequality.
  5. Offer much bigger economic vision and policies.

Obviously, many of these will be hard to do. One cannot simply pull economic policies bold enough to shift the distribution of income and wealth off the shelf. Our leaders live and breathe the air and culture of our metropolitan centers. Business donors are very real. And accepting the legitimacy of immigration worries will be most controversial and challenging for progressives who embrace multiculturalism and must also fight Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and Marine Le Pen’s outrageous and racist polices.

The left can still regain the momentum they need to push through bold reforms if they are honest about the past and bold about the future.

Lux: Resistance Is Beautiful, Necessary — But It’s Not Enough

The following article by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of  The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

The grassroots-led resistance is the most heartening and hopeful thing I have ever seen in my 40 years in politics. Fueled not by organizations or politicians or donors or celebrities, but by regular folks throughout America, we are seeing hopeful tangible signs that Trump will not be able to run roughshod over our freedoms and our lives without one hell of a fight.

The Women’s Marches all over America were so thrilling, and all the protests and solidarity online and on the streets happening every day are sustaining our very democracy. The spontaneous protests at airports everywhere this weekend is one more amazing sign of the power of this resistance. One recent mobilizing call sponsored by MoveOn, Indivisible, Working families Party, and People’s Action had over 60,000 people on it, which as far as I know breaks all records for people on one political organizing call.

People are demonstrating at congressional offices all across the country, and not just showing up once — organizations and grassroots activists are planning to show up every single week, similar to the Moral Mondays Movement in North Carolina which set the stage for Democrat Roy Cooper’s victory in the Governor’s race last year. And plans are being hatched to have another day of protests on Tax Day, April 15th, to protest Trump’s refusal to disclose his taxes and the Republicans’ terribly regressive tax policies, which would massively cut taxes for the wealthy and big business while adding massively to the tax burden of poor and middle income folks.

Hopefully, Democrats in D.C., who so far have seemed mostly disconnected from this outpouring of energy and passion, are getting the message that we need them to show the same fire in resisting Trump as their constituents have. It is time for them to start making some noise and showing some defiance. Insider strategies are great if they result in stopping things, but if Democrats are going to lose on every nomination fight anyway, they should make things as messy and painful for the Republicans ramming through all these terrible Cabinet picks as they can. And they need to make a huge deal, an official red alert, five-alarm fire kind of BFD, over the reprehensible Muslim ban Trump has instituted. It is horrible in and of itself, but it is also clear evidence that the fascist tendencies Trump exhibited in the campaign will be turned into policy.

I see evidence in my recent discussions with Senators that they are listening to the grassroots and starting to get the message. Statements from Democrats about the Muslim ban yesterday showed real passion, thank goodness. And upcoming confirmation battles on many of Trump’s Cabinet appointments will be a lot tougher in the days to come. Senate rules allow for Democrats to slow things down in a major way, and I hope we will see exactly that kind of action. If the progressive grassroots and the Democrats on the Hill equally engage the big battles all-out, we can win some and cause Trump and the Republicans an enormous amount of damage, even on the ones we don’t have the votes to win.

The challenge is that we will have to fight an enormous number of those battles, as the Trump/Republican Congress agenda is broadly evil — yes, evil. This is going to be a war fought on a hundred fronts at the same time, and we have to be ready for that prospect. And we have to understand that with Trump following through on the worst of his campaign promises like the Muslim ban, we are entering a world of darkness unseen in this country at least since the days when Nixon was plotting to break into and even bomb the offices of his political enemies. During the campaign, Trump said his role model was Nixon, and he might turn out to be worse.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter last year, Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said that “darkness is good” and spoke admirably of Lucifer and Darth Vader, saying in awe, “that’s power”. And Trump himself has praised dictators around the world while being BFF with Russian autocrat and war criminal Vladimir Putin. So make no mistake, we are going to have fight the darkness with everything we have.

The way I am thinking about these times is to amend that wonderful old saying “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” I think in this case, we have no choice but to curse the darkness, or at least stand up to it and speak against it. But we do also need to light our own candle, to show people what America can be that would be the opposite of Trumpism. Maybe the revised saying needs to be “Fight the darkness. And light your candle very bright.”

The profoundly wonderful thing about the Women’s March, an idea that arose entirely through local grassroots activists online, was that even while they standing up to Trump’s agenda, they were lighting their own candle by showing a better way. The marches all over the country were peaceful, positive expressions of determination and hope that we could build a better world.

We need to resist in very way we can think of, and with everything we’ve got. We need to show grit and creativity in figuring out how to slow Trump and his sycophants in the Republican party from enacting their evil agenda. But let’s also show the American people what the opposite of Trumpism will be. We want an America where freedom of religion and respectfulness to Americans of all religious (or non-religious) beliefs are held sacred. We want an America that understands our country’s history is one of being a nation of immigrants and refugees, and that welcoming them strengthens us instead of weakening us. We want to go back to the sacred vision of this nation as being a land of,by, and for the people instead of a country ruled and rigged by billionaires, big business, and their buddies. We want to be a nation where we lift each other up rather than pushing each other down so that a few can make it while everyone else fights among themselves.

In addition to resistance and rhetoric, let’s show the country what believe in instead. Instead of a Muslim ban, we want to welcome Muslims to this country and show them friendship so that the radical extremism which Trump is always talking about never has a chance to grow. Instead of insulting hard working immigrants and obsessing about kicking them out of our country, let’s welcome them as permanent citizens and help them in starting businesses and getting them jobs and good education, which lifts us all up. Instead of slashing health care coverage and Social Security, let’s make sure seniors and all our citizens have good health coverage and a decent income, which helps us all live in a healthier economy and healthier society. Instead of a radical plan to lower taxes for the wealthy and big business and giving them even more power and wealth than they already have, let’s have a fair tax system and rising wages for all workers. Instead of Wall Street banks being able to run roughshod over the American economy like they did a decade ago, let’s break up the Too Big To Fail banks and create more opportunities for community banks and credit unions to flourish. Instead of stripping away funding for public education, let’s invest in our public schools so that our entire society benefits from a better educated citizenry.

Trumpism is an ugly ideology, and we have to fight it in the streets, at the airports, and in the halls of Congress. The good news is that Americans will turn away from it quickly if we can given them a vision and an agenda they can embrace. Let’s resist at full tilt, and light our candle to show people the way forward.

As New Head of GOP, Trump is both Sore Loser and Graceless Winner

Dana Milbank sums it up well in in Washington Post column:

To Trump’s many self-assigned superlatives, he can now add another: the sorest winner. With charity for none and with malice toward all but his supporters, he has in the past two months set a new standard for gracelessness in victory.

America has never before had such a prickly president-elect, nor one with such a sour disposition. You don’t have to be a shrink to see that Trump’s extreme defensiveness can be attributed to his titanic insecurities. Having lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million, his tweets and vents provide a textbook case study of a man living his fear that his fraudulence will be found out. He follows each new outrage with another, in hopes that his shell game will continue to distract the media, and so far it has worked.

As the winner of the Electoral College vote, however, as President-elect of the United States and leader of the Republican Party, you would think he would be smart enough to extend the hand of friendship to his adversaries, to reach out and at least make noises about bringing Americans together. Just the gesture would probably get him an upward bump in his approval ratings.

Somehow, that obvious, no-downside strategy has eluded him. Milbank elaborates on Trump’s increasingly sour disposition:

Instead of brushing off criticism, as a president-elect can afford to do, Trump in recent days marked Martin Luther King weekend by telling off civil rights icon John Lewis (a King acolyte) and his “falling apart” and “crime infested” congressional district. He bemoaned “Saturday Night Live” spoofs as a “hit job” and used the words “crap” and “sleazebag” in his public statements. He called the top Democrat in the land the “head clown” and accused the American intelligence community of acting like Nazis.

He responded to criticism from Meryl Streep by calling her an “over-rated” actress and a “Hillary flunky who lost big.” He likewise cheered that his “Celebrity Apprentice” replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” in ratings compared with “the ratings machine, DJT. . . . But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.” Trump said the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee is discussed only because “the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!”

The losers often have hard feelings after elections. But this much enmity from the winner is extraordinary. Trump, after his election-night promise to “bind the wounds of division” and be a “president for all Americans,” never attempted reconciliation. A day later, he falsely condemned “professional protesters, incited by the media,” and at year end he taunted opponents via Twitter: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

…His behavior during this time has not been what one typically calls presidential. He has echoed both Vladi­mir Putin and WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Twitter and blasted away in all caps. He attacked Vanity Fair magazine editor Graydon Carter after an unfavorable review of a Trump Tower restaurant. His attack on a local steelworkers union president resulted in death threats.

 Trump has used Twitter to attack everything from the “Hamilton” musical to the Chinese government, and, in one tweet, he appeared to commit the United States to attacking North Korea to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States.

There is no slight too trivial for the GOP’s new leader to ignore. He has a singular genius for converting a one-day story into a 3-day pubic relations disaster. That probably helps explain why his “favorability” rating has tanked in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.  As Milbank notes, “Views about his honesty, leadership and ability to unite the country dropped similarly.”

Jennifer Calfas reports at The Hill:

The ABC/Washington Post poll found that 54 percent of Americans view Trump unfavorably. The unfavorable ratings of former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama ranged from 9 to 20 percent when they entered office. The new poll echoes similar ones produced from CNN and Gallup.

CNN/ORC poll also released Tuesday also found Trump had a 40 percent approval rating — a historically low number for a president-elect.

Gallup poll released over the weekend found similar numbers, with Trump’s favorables historically low.

Trump’s propensity for the endless, nasty gloat may gratify some of his angrier supporters, and he clearly gets off on the feedback they provide at rallies. But how well does it serve his party’s prospects in the 2018 midterm elections? He’s already won a large majority of America’s sourest voters. There is no value added in marinating in bile for him or the Republicans, but that isn’t going to stop him from taking the bait every time.

All of this in stark contrast to outgoing President Obama, who gave Americans a new standard of dignity, grace and scandal-free government, as well as economic recovery, and greater health security. The new Gallup poll reports that President Obama leaves the White House with a 58 percent ‘favorable’ rating.

Despite the daunting landscape Democrats are facing in the 2018 senate races, their competitive position with respect to House races, governorships and state legislatures is improving. If Trump continues his daily temper tantrums, the GOP ‘brand’ could be in serious trouble by November, 2018.

Creamer: M.L.K. Day 2017– A Time for Principled Defiance

The following post by Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

This Martin Luther King Day is an especially important time for us to celebrate and emulate the principled defiance of Dr. Martin Luther King. Persistent, unapologetic – doggedly non-violent – Dr. King stood like a rock – defiant of the bigotry, racism and disenfranchisement of his time. Refusing to bend, he inspired a movement that changed America.

In May, 1940, much of the British army was surrounded by German forces – its backs to the sea on the beaches of Dunkirk.

In the face of looming disaster, Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied his nation and called on his people to take matters into their own hands. In response, hundreds of Brits launched boats of every size, crossed the English Channel, and helped to rescue their surrounded soldiers.

For the British people, the evacuation of the Dunkirk was simultaneously one of the most perilous and heroic moments of World War II.

Ordinary people stood in defiance of certain German victory, refused to accept defeat, helped assure that 330,000 British troops escaped certain disaster, and allowed the British Army to regroup and fight again.

Four years later – together with their ally the United States – many of those British soldiers joined the greatest armada in history as they once again crossed the channel. This time it was to mount the D-Day invasion that turned the tide of the war and ultimately defeated right-wing authoritarianism in Europe three quarters of a century ago.

The spirit of Britain’s defiance of certain defeat at Dunkirk was summed up by Prime Minister Churchill’s “Fight them on the Beaches Speech,” delivered to the House of Commons after the evacuation of Dunkirk was completed on June 4, 1940.

In it he said:

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills… we shall never surrender.

Today, many Americans prepare to confront our own brand of right-wing authoritarianism. As Donald Trump stands poised to be sworn into office, it is once again a time for Dr. King’s principled defiance.

Several weeks ago, my wife, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, hosted a rally in her district to mobilize her constituents to “Join the Resistance.”

It was a windy, bone-chilling, single-digit day in Chicago. Still 1,400 gathered in at the Armory on North Broadway.

Jan’s speech began:

It is a cold day in Chicago. But it will be a colder day in Hell before we allow billionaires like Donald Trump and (Governor) Bruce Rauner to turn the United States of America into a low-wage plutocracy with no place for immigrants, or people of color, or labor unions, or women’s rights.

The emotional high point of her speech was when Jan, who is Jewish, said:

We need to be united – one for all and all for one – when there are attacks… If, God forbid, a Muslim registry – we must all show up to register and tell Donald Trump: “We are all Muslims.”

That brought all fourteen hundred people in the room to their feet in agreement and applause. “We are all Muslims” they chanted.

That is the spirit of principled defiance that must define our movement in the days and months ahead.

There are many pundits who believe it is a foregone conclusion that Trump and his Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress will repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But if we fight hard enough and stand firm enough, that is not inevitable.

When it comes to the ACA, Republicans in Congress are beginning to hear from Americans with pre-existing conditions and chronic diseases who believe that they are alive today because the ACA saved their lives.

They are beginning to hear from the families that would have faced bankruptcy without the ACA.

They are beginning to hear from the tens of millions of Americans who would lose their health care coverage if the ACA were repealed.

They are hearing from the hospitals and health care providers in their districts that would be devastated.

They have begun to face the reality that if they act to repeal the ACA, many of those millions will blame them – personally – for taking away their health care. And it turns out that people get angrier when you take away something they have, than when you refused to give them something they wanted in the first place.

It is not inevitable that Donald Trump will be able to fill the open Supreme Court seat with a right-wing ideologue who would vote to take away our right to vote, or to form unions, or to assemble to seek redress from our government. That seat should have should have rightfully been filled by President Obama.

If Democrats in the Senate stand firm – and insist that any appointee to fill the seat stolen from President Obama must be filled by a person with the same stature and the same views as those an Obama appointee would have held – we can win.

Republicans only have 51 votes in the Senate that right now requires 60 votes to confirm a Supreme Court Justice. And it will be very hard for Republicans to permanently change the rules so that they could approve a Justice with a simple majority, since many of their own number realize that one day they too will once again return to the minority.

But when it comes to these, and other battles, what will be decisive is not what happens in Washington – but what happens in the states and Congressional districts across America.

Don’t let your Republican Senator or Member of Congress attend an event in your community without confronting them. Give them a first hand feel of the passion and defiance of their own voters.

There are few things more powerful in modern American politics than the combination of your Republican Member of Congress, passionate people and a video camera.

We need to follow the example of a man who is now known in Washington, DC as the conscience of the Congress – Congressman John Lewis.

Fifty years ago, John Lewis helped organize the campaign that ultimately resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act and ended decades of disenfranchisement for African Americans in many areas of our country.

Lewis stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in principled defiance of Selma, Alabama’s Sherriff Clarke, whose mounted police and local vigilantes beat him within an inch of his life.

Last week, John Lewis quietly but firmly said he did not believe that President Trump is a legitimate president – that there is real question whether the election was manipulated by a foreign power and whether or not there was collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

A few days ago, the right wing “Washington Times” had a headline reading that “the Left is now permanently in the opposition.” Not unless we completely lose our democracy.

That’s because most Americans are on our side.

The recent Quinnipiac poll showed President Obama with a 55 percent approval rating and Donald Trump at a dismal 37 percent ― lower than any president in two decades as they were being sworn in for their first term. And don’t forget that Hillary Clinton got 3 million more votes than Trump.

But more important, Americans support progressive values. They believe in unity, not division. They believe that we should build an economy that works for everyone, not just CEO’s and the wealthy. They believe in public education. They believe that health care should be a right not a privilege. They believe in the right to organize in the work place and negotiate your wages and working conditions. They believe that every American has the right to vote.

They believe that everyone – white, black, Latino, Asian…. everyone… is created equal and endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s everyone – not just the wealthy few. Not just people who are the right color or who are brought up in the “right” end of town.

My wife and I had the privilege of attending President Obama’s farewell address in Chicago. In his address, President Obama laid out his vision for an America that embodied those values. And he showed us the kind of dignity and character and decency that should be the hallmark of an American president.

Here is how he concluded his remarks:

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain. For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.

I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes We Can.

Yes We Did.

Yes We Can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

In the months ahead, it is up to us to stand up for that vision forcefully – defiantly.

This week, as Donald Trump takes office, it is up to us to regroup like the British troops who were rescued by their fellow citizens from the Beaches of Dunkirk – and return to the electoral battlefield in 2018 and 2020 to defeat our own, home-grown version of the authoritarian right ― just as they did 75 years ago.